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Is Tabcorp Holdings Limited (ASX:TAH) A Risky Dividend Stock?

Simply Wall St

Is Tabcorp Holdings Limited (ASX:TAH) a good dividend stock? How would you know? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. If you are hoping to live on your dividends, it's important to be more stringent with your investments than the average punter. Regular readers know we like to apply the same approach to each dividend stock, and we hope you'll find our analysis useful.

With Tabcorp Holdings yielding 4.6% and having paid a dividend for over 10 years, many investors likely find the company quite interesting. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Tabcorp Holdings!

ASX:TAH Historical Dividend Yield, May 26th 2019

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Payout ratios

Dividends are usually paid out of company earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. As a result, we should always investigate whether a company can afford its dividend, measured as a percentage of a company's net income after tax. In the last year, Tabcorp Holdings paid out 342% of its profit as dividends. A payout ratio above 100% is definitely an item of concern, unless there are some other circumstances that would justify it.

We also measure dividends paid against a company's levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Tabcorp Holdings paid out 210% of its free cash last year. Cash flows can be lumpy, but this dividend was not well covered by cash flow. Paying out more than 100% of your free cash flow in dividends is generally not a long-term, sustainable state of affairs, so we think shareholders should watch this metric closely. Cash is slightly more important than profit from a dividend perspective, but given Tabcorp Holdings's payouts were not well covered by either earnings or cash flow, we would definitely be concerned about the sustainability of this dividend.

Is Tabcorp Holdings's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Tabcorp Holdings's dividend was not well covered by earnings, we need to check its balance sheet for signs of financial distress. A rough way to check this is with these two simple ratios: a) net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and b) net interest cover. Net debt to EBITDA measures a company's total debt load relative to its earnings (lower = less debt), while net interest cover measures the company's ability to pay the interest on its debt (higher = greater ability to pay interest costs). With net debt of above 3x EBITDA, investors are starting to take on a meaningful amount of risk, should the business enter a downturn.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company's net interest expense. With EBIT of 3.19 times its interest expense, Tabcorp Holdings's interest cover is starting to look a bit thin.

We update our data on Tabcorp Holdings every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.

Dividend Volatility

From the perspective of an income investor who wants to earn dividends for many years, there is not much point buying a stock if its dividend is regularly cut or is not reliable. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Tabcorp Holdings's dividend payments. This dividend has been unstable, which we define as having fallen by at least 20% one or more times over this time. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was AU$0.60 in 2009, compared to AU$0.21 last year. The dividend has shrunk at around 10.0% a year during that period. Tabcorp Holdings's dividend has been cut sharply at least once, so it hasn't fallen by -10.0% every year, but this is a decent approximation of the long term change.


Dividend Growth Potential

Given that dividend payments have been shrinking like a glacier in a warming world, we need to check if there are some bright spots on the horizon. It's not great to see that Tabcorp Holdings's have fallen at approximately 21% over the past five years. Declining earnings per share over a number of years is not a great sign for the dividend investor. Without some improvement, this does not bode well for the long term value of a company's dividend.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Tabcorp Holdings's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. We're a bit uncomfortable with Tabcorp Holdings paying out a high percentage of both its cashflow and earnings. Earnings per share have been falling, and the company has cut its dividend at least once in the past. From a dividend perspective, this is a cause for concern. There are a few too many issues for us to get comfortable with Tabcorp Holdings from a dividend perspective. Businesses can change, but we would struggle to identify why an investor should rely on this stock for their income.

Without at least some growth in earnings per share over time, the dividend will eventually come under pressure either from costs or inflation. See if the 11 analysts are forecasting a turnaround in our free collection of analyst estimates here.

We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 3%.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.